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2007/07/24

Personality and Organizations

Linking: Personality and Organizations
Editors: Benjamin Schneider and  D. Brent Smith
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum; 1 edition (March 1, 2004)
ISBN-10: 0805837582     
Book Review:


Personality and Organizations summarizes, critiques, and integrates twenty-five years of research and theory on the role of personality in organizational contexts. The book also includes insightful recommendations for specific types of future research that are most likely to advance our understanding of personality in work organizations. Thus, it should be an excellent resource for scholars and Ph.D. students.

The book contains six sections and fifteen chapters by a variety of well-known scholars in the industrial/organizational psychology and organizational behavior fields. A strength of the volume is the overview at the beginning of each section. Each overview is concise and yet provides useful information on the content of each chapter in the section. These overviews should be a helpful guide for readers because they provide more detailed information than can be inferred from chapter titles. The overviews also describe the purpose behind the section.

Section I (Introducing Personality at Work) contains two chapters. The first chapter (Hogan) is an excellent historical overview of contemporary personality theory, which helps to put current research in perspective. Hogan provides careful definitions of key terms and uses them consistently. The chapter is well structured and includes individual, team, and organizational levels of analysis.

The second chapter (Furnham) is a descriptive summary of personality research in Europe, with an emphasis on comparing similarities and differences between U.S. and European approaches. Thus, it provides an introductory overview of comparisons between U.S. and European research on personality.

Section II (Persistent Conceptual and Methodological Issues) contains three chapters. Chapter 3 (Stewart and Barrick), entitled "Four Lessons Learned from the Person Situation Debate," presents a creative integration of a large stream of research. The chapter is well organized ( focusing on four points from the debate and their implications for future research) and thoughtful. The integrative model presented is cohesive and consistent with the rest of the chapter, because it incorporates points from the four lessons. The authors take a clear position in recommending the importance of recognizing the role of situational factors in future personality research.

In Chapter 4 (Judge and Kristof-Brown), "Personality, Interactional Psychology, and POF," the authors take an innovative approach to thinking about the relevance of the fit literature to personality in organizations. The chapter is highly focused and tightly structured. Drawing on different types of interactions, the authors develop novel ideas for future research on personality in the context of specific organizational settings. This blending of the fit and interactions literature provides a strong conceptual foundation and justification for enriching future research.

Chapter 5 (Smith and Robie) is detailed and narrowly focused on specific issues of personality and impression management. The authors adopt a very broad definition of impression management and do not use precise definitions of constructs. This chapter may have more relevance to those doing research on selection than to other readers.

Section III (The Role of Personality in Work and Well-Being) focuses on personality at work and well-being and contains three chapters. Chapter 6 (Walsh) describes past research on personality and vocational interests. Some of this chapter repeats material covered in earlier chapters (such as Chapter 1). Overall, this chapter should have primarily relevance to those wanting an introduction to personality and vocation.

Chapter 7 (Staw) is refreshing because the author presents a critique of some of his own earlier work on dispositional approaches to job satisfaction. He then proposes a new model, which becomes the basis for his recommendations for a proactive (rather than reactive) future research agenda.

Chapter 8 (George and Brief), the final chapter in this section, presents an unfolding model of personality and distress at work. Instead of focusing on well-being, the authors take a novel approach by focusing on links between personality and distress in work organizations.

In Sections IV (The Role of Personality in Understanding Micro Organizational Processes) and V (The Role of Personality in Understanding Macro Organizational Processes) the authors adopt contrasting approaches (microlevel and mesolevel issues related to personality and work organizations), with three chapters in each section. Chapter 9 (James and Rentsch), entitled "J-U-S-T-I-F-Y to Explain the Reasons Why," offers a new approach for studying personality and motivation. Moving beyond traditional self-report measures of personality (and potential self-presentation bias), the authors provide a useful introduction to conditional reasoning as an indirect technique for assessing motives and implicit cognitions. Results of this approach are promising, explain higher amounts of variance than prior research, and have relevance to a wide variety of personality characteristics.

In Chapter 10 (Spangler, House, and Palrecha) the authors draw on early work of McClelland and present a broad summary of seven bodies of literature with potential relevance to personality, motives, and leadership. The large resulting model (three motives, five personality characteristics, and fifteen interactions) requires careful conceptual justification before empirical testing.

Chapter 11 (Organ and McFall), the final micro chapter, focuses on personality and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). As in the Staw chapter, the authors consider alternate explanations for prior research findings (in this case, the weak explanatory power of personality in predicting OCB) and use this as the basis for future research (avoiding more of the same designs and adopting new approaches that may be more successful in identifying personality-OCB relationships).

Section V (meso issues) begins with Chapter 12 (Moynihan and Peterson), "The Role of Personality in Group Processes," in which the authors move beyond traditional demographic approaches to group composition and propose a useful framework of three different conceptualizations of personality as an element of group composition. The authors, in this clearly structured chapter, describe and critique existing research that has used each approach to personality and group composition and use this as the foundation for four future research recommendations on studying personality in workgroups.

In Chapter 13 (Schneider and Smith) the authors address the cross-level effects of personality on organizational culture. Emphasizing future research, they contrast different conceptualizations of these relationships and recommend approaches that are more versus less likely to provide useful insights.

Chapter 14 (Argyris) is on personality and organization. Unlike other chapters in the book, this material represents a personal opinion essay. The author repeats key points from his 1957 book (the same title as this book) and continues to argue for the benefits of action research. This chapter should have most relevance to those with an interest in history and action research, since the author adopts a different paradigm and a different set of research assumptions and represents an alternative view of personality in organizations.

Section VI (Conclusions), the last section, contains one chapter, which describes six issues with relevance to future research on personality in work organizations. Although the material is thought provoking, there is no clear rationale for selecting the issues that are highlighted, and they are not presented in order of importance.

Overall, the book has a number of strengths. First, the editors provide a well-organized structure for the book and explain their objectives clearly. More important, the inclusion of fifteen chapters by different subject matter experts allows the book to meet the editors' objective of summarizing, critiquing, and integrating twenty-five years of research and theory on the role of personality in organizational contexts. The author index is thorough, and the subject index is extremely detailed and useful.

As with any book, there is never enough space to cover all possible relevant topics in one volume. Although it is refreshing that the book includes one non-U.S. perspective (Chapter 2), other perspectives (e.g., Asian) could have been included. Readers may ask why the book includes an entire section on personality and well-being and less information (no chapters) on less traditional but potentially relevant topics (such as job design, decision making, organizational justice) or the most commonly researched personality outcome (job performance). Although this is a matter of taste, an edited volume seems an ideal outlet for theory development and speculation about how personality relates to a wide range of constructs.

Overall, this collection of chapters provides an excellent summary, critique, and integration of the current state of research on personality in work organizations. The overviews provide helpful details on the chapters in each section and should help readers identify chapters that are personally most relevant to their own interests.


~Cited from Linn Van Dyne and Walter R. Nord.. Academy of Management Review, Apr2005, Vol. 30 Issue 2, p448-450.



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